The Red Church

By C.R. Bilardi

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~review by David Rankine (originally at www.ritualmagick.co.uk )

When most of the books you read are for research, it is always a pleasure to read a good book which increases your knowledge of an associated subject which you have not had time to study.  Chris Bilardi’s The Red Church is an excellent example of this.  Subtitled “The Art of Pennsylvania German Braucherei”, this book is a fascinating study of Pow Wow, the American Christian folk magic which grew from German roots.

The first part of the book provides a detailed analysis of the different European (predominantly German) religious movements which fed into the Braucherei, setting the scene and providing the provenance for the material.  The historical analysis is a vital part of providing the context for magical systems, so it was a pleasure to see such a through treatise which covered all the ground whilst holding the reader’s interest.

As a tradition which draws on the grimoires and Qabalah as well as its Biblical core, the practices are heavily religious, and Bilardi is not afraid to emphasise the importance of being a good member of the local Christian community, something which was key to magical practitioners of the grimoires, cunning-folk and other traditions as well.  It is good to see the debt that the Western Esoteric Traditions owe to Christianity as one of the driving forces of modern magic being acknowledged.  It has become unfortunately trendy in some areas to ‘bash’ Christianity as being anti-pagan, whilst reflecting those same prejudices, and also ignoring the fact that there is an inherent magic in the Bible and Christian practice which continues to be one of the most powerful magical currents in the world.

However this book is not purely about hisotry and philosophy, it is also packed with numerous examples of the charms and practices of Braucherei, drawn from the old texts like The Long Lost Friend and also from practitioners, which show very effectively how quickly practices can evolve and change through personal use and experience.  (As an aside, Dan Harms is working on a definitive volume on The Long Lost Friend which should be a welcome addition to this field).

All in all this is an excellent volume which should be of interest to a wide range of people, from magicians to folklorists, healers to historians, psychologists to pagans.  Chris Bilardi is to be congratulated on producing such a fine work.

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Utterly Wicked

Curses, Hexes & Other Unsavory Notions

By Dorothy Morrison

I saw this book recommended on many websites and often as recommended book on Amazon when I was buying some of the more serious books I tend to spend my money on.  I saw it time and time again, remembering it because it has such a different looking cover for a book on Witchcraft.  It is memorable.  Certainly it is that.  The title is quite catchy too and as I am sitting waiting for my copy of John Canard’s forthcoming “Defences against the Witches Craft” (see Avalonia Books for details) I decided that I should probably start by reading what others are writing and reading when it comes to casting those curses in the first instance.   Not that I would do such a thing, of course.  Or, would I?

The list of credits on the back cover, by other authors who recommend and endorse this book is impressive.  It reads like a who’s who of the American pop-magic scene – Raven Grimassi, Judika Illes and Stephanie Rose Bird all have good things to say about it.

So is this book worth spending the US$14.95 on of the cover price?  (and that is not a lot with the weak $ to the £ at the moment).

Well, having had a proper read I think that it would be well worth the cover price if you are new to spell casting and need some direction, for the newcomers to spell casting this is going to be a book of biblical porportions, for the experienced this will be a fantastic book to read and enjoy for the sense of humour portrayed in it.  Yes ok, this is not a nice book.  No fluffy pink ribbons here smelling of roses to make you feel better about yourself.  No way.   Dorothy Morrison blatantly makes it clear from the outset that this is a book about getting revenge, getting even and that in her opinion there is nothing wrong with it either.

There is no ‘Wiccan Rede’ here and frankly that is a relief as I have had it up to my eyeballs in misinterpretations of the Wiccan Rede by people who have never actually stood naked in a Witches Circle and who haven’t got a clue about ethics anyway.  (But of course think they do.)

The material presented is a blend of pagan magic with vodou and santeria potions and lotions, spells and charms from all kinds of different traditions come together in an eclectic mix which will provide inspiration for anyone interested in expanding their horizons and gaining inspiration for creating their own unique spells for uses diverse.

Enjoy.  Learn.  Open your mind.

Not for the fainthearted who think that magic is the domain of the wiccans alone.

By Candlelight
Rites for Celebration, Blessing & Prayer
Janina Renee

“Light a candle – a simple, sacred act”

This is a wonderfully inspired book, and is non-tradition, non-religion specific and can as such be used by anyone to bring more of the sacred into everyday life, regardless of spiritual beliefs.

The book includes rites for everyday use, self-improvement, working life, personal situations, spiritual being, rhythms of nature, special days of the year (US) as well as number of other candle lighting ceremonies for a variety of situations such as friendship, birthdays, lovers, remembrance of a loved one who has passed on and even for pets.

This book will help you if you are writing your own rituals and like working with candles, as it is packed with original and inspirational ideas. Recommended for all levels, from complete beginners to those with lots of experience of ritual.

Practical Magic for Beginners
Techniques & Rituals to Focus Magical Energy
Brandy Williams

Review by Sorita d’Este for Avalonia  (archive 2001-2004)

This book is one of the “For Beginners” books produced by Llewellyn Publishing, and it is an excellent example of a book which does exactly as it says on the cover. The author, Brandy Williams, is a Wiccan High Priestess and Ceremonial Magician, and it is obvious that she drew on her wide ranging experience when she wrote this book.

Magick is about doing, and this book is a guide for beginners on how to start. It contains introductions to all the essential techniques and practises which are often referred to in other beginners books, but never explained – ie. Even though this book is aimed at beginners, it is aimed at beginners who want to learn and who want to do, rather than someone with a passing interest.

Working through the book, you will learn how to work with Energy, the Elements, the planets, how to time your magick and how to do results magick. There are some excellent example rituals for practical purposes such as “Find a Home” and “Go on a Journey”.

The book is packed with practical exercises and practical, straightforward advice. Recommended to all beginners, as well as those of you with some experience, but who are finding it difficult to get results from the spells and rituals you are doing.

SPELLCRAFT
a Grimoire of Practical Magic
Ann-Marie Gallagher

Review by Sorita d’Este for Avalonia  (archive 2001-2004)

SPELLCRAFT – Charm your way to success at home, work or school, and in love, life and relationships with this 21st-century guide to magic.

This book contains a blend of spell ideas and techniques drawing from modern traditions from all over the world – all presented in a simple to follow and understand format and beautifully produced in this hardback volume which would make a perfect gift for a friend or loved one who has a curiousity regarding spells.

Spellcraft would appeal to mature teenagers who just want to learn the techniques and do spells, who wants explanations on the “how to” rather than the long philosophies so many modern books present instead.

Spells in this book are tailored for practical every-day situations – for a new job, promotion, success in exams, to stop bullying, harmony at work or school and how to get a salary raise, there are also spells for love and to help you get rid of unwanted attentions.

Published by Carroll & Brown Books

The Greek Magical Papyri in Translation: Including the Demotic Spells: Texts 
by Hans Dieter Betz
University of Chicago Press

Reviewed by David Rankine
 
This book is an absolute must for anyone interested in Greek magick, or the development of the Western Esoteric Tradition. It is full of literally hundreds of fragments and whole spells from ancient Greece, covering a huge range of areas from divination to love spells to knowledge gathering to revenge to exorcism. The Greek gods, along with other imports, are to be found throughout the texts, as well as a lot of planetary material, such as extensive use of the Greek vowels. You have to read this book if you are serious about magick, there is no excuse not to!